BRIEF SYNOPSIS: On a top secret mission in Iran, Joe Ledger and Echo Team get news of a threat to global security. Joe must fight on the run with limited support and intelligence if he is going to save the day.
PROS: Joe Ledger, the villains (for once!), high velocity action, dark revelations, cool vampires.
CONS: Rudy freaking Sanchez.
BOTTOM LINE: Easily the best Joe Ledger Novel to date.
Assassin’s Code by Jonathan Maberry is the fourth book in the Joe Ledger Novels, a series that I have mad love for. The series is like Resident Evil without the awful dialogue and shoddy plotting. It’s like the hit FOX thriller 24 but with Bond Villains. It’s like Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series with a focus on science instead of the supernatural. And Assassin’s Code? It’s like all that with a dose of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. This is a freaking awesome book. Seriously, if you read my review of The King of Plagues and had any doubts about this series please just do yourself a favor and go buy all four books. Forget about reading this review, just go buy all four books and start reading. Thank me later.
When Iran kidnaps a few American college kids hiking along in the wilderness and accuses them of being spies, who ya gonna call? Joe Ledger and Echo Team. After a successful rescue Joe has an unexpected meeting with one of the vilest scumbags in Iranian politics. Joe is tipped off about the existence of several nuclear bombs planted in Middle Eastern oil fields and asked for help. Rushing against the clock to prevent the detonation of these weapons of mass destruction, Joe finds himself caught in the crossfire of a shadow war. A centuries old conflict, waged by super assassins and brought about by a wicked pact. Can Joe and the DMS prevent nuclear holocaust?
So let me start by saying, WOW. Assassin’s Code is the real deal. Easily the best book in the series to date. As much as I love Patient Zero, this one is a step above in terms of sheer awesome. Joe seems to finally be getting over his mopey phase. As far as protagonists of thrillers go, Joe Ledger gets top marks for being distinctive. Sure there are plenty of smart mouths in the genre but you will not find another hero with such a fractured psyche. Underneath Joe’s wisecracking veneer is a haunted man. Constantly forced to juggle three personalities (the modern man, the cop, and the warrior) Joe must keep his dark side on a leash or lose himself entirely. A new element is introduced to the Joe Ledger formula in this book; fear. Joe is running scared, still lethal, but truly afraid for what seems like the first time and it is great. Here is a quote that perfectly encapsulates this:
“In my trade, confidence is built on a platform whose legs are made up of good intelligence, continuous training, proper equipment, and field support. I had a sick dog, a dead man’s gun, a stolen briefcase, a vampire hunter’s stake in my belt, and a cell phone…”
How is the supporting cast doing? Ghost, Joe’s K9 companion is awesome as ever. I forgot to mention Ghost during my last review and for that I am greatly ashamed. I love this dog and his relationship with Joe. Maberry does an excellent job of giving Ghost character and after reading Assassin’s Code I think everyone will understand why dog is a man’s best friend. Unfortunately we don’t see as much of Top Sims or Bunny as I would like but we do get more (very vague) glimpses into Church’s past. Rudy is far less irritating in this book and for that I am thankful, though he does utter his catchphrase “Dios Mio!” several times at least. As far as new characters go we are introduced to Violin, the mysterious femme fatale and I have to say that I approve. Violin is equal parts young, innocent, intriguing, and utterly deadly. I’m eager to see more of her but I’m hoping against hope that Maberry doesn’t rush the romantic interest aspect.
One of the problems I have had with the series so far has been the villains. They tread the line between truly evil and cartoony in their motives. Assassin’s Code has the best villains of the series to date, even though some of them are returning faces. I was anxious to see how Maberry would handle vampires. The vampires of Assassin’s Code are probably the best use of blood suckers in modern fiction. They just make sense. The myths and legends are present, some true and some false but all are explained in a scientific manner. They are fearsome and brutal and I dig it.
Plot ahoy! So there are a lot of moving pieces to the Assassin’s Code and it may seem a bit jumbled at first. Readers will wonder who is who and works for what and is allies with who else. This is okay. Readers aren’t the only ones confused. Joe and DMS is too. It’s not an accident of bad writing, it is deliberate. Eventually it all comes together rather nicely. The shocking, Dan Brown-esque secret of the book is epic. Truly chilling and world shaking. The pacing is relentless as ever, told from the first person perspective of Joe Ledger and the third person perspective of good guys and baddies. Short chapters make for speed reading and the excitement never lets up.
Lastly we come to action. Maberry knows how to write action. Fight scenes are brutal, visceral, primal. Readers feel every blow, hear every shot fired. Joe’s initial run in with a Red Knight had me cringing with every hit. It’s beautiful in a chaotic, ugly, grotesque sort of way. I have to wonder though, if it would kill Joe to carry a long gun as well as his side arm. Hardly professional. Minor nitpick aside, you can expect fierce action from Assassin’s Code.
So that’s it. Great hero. Great plot. Great action. Best in series. Go buy it. Now.